A look at where we are

TC Media newsroom@thewesternstar.com
Published on December 20, 2016

Dear Editor: I am an 82-year-old citizen of Newfoundland and Labrador. I am currently worried about what will happen in the future in the province where Dwight Ball became premier in 2015.

Premier Ball has a monumental task of governing Newfoundland and Labrador and the state of finances left by previous Progressive Conservative government, with an annual deficit of $2.6 billion and a provincial debt of $13 billion. During the time when the previous government was in power the commodity prices were up in both the mineral and oil industries, however the government at that time did not have a heritage fund in place. This would have been a positive thing considering the poor financial state of our current government was left to deal with.

Newfoundland is geographically larger than P.E.I., Nova Scotia and New Brunswick put together and has a small population of 480,000 people, located in every crook and cranny of Newfoundland and Labrador. It is very difficult for the government to maintain services and infrastructure in all these smaller rural areas.

People other than fisherman in other rural areas are going to have to move to bigger centres in order for government to continue giving services they require.

In these rural areas, the younger populations gladly move to seek employment and build a life elsewhere; however, senior citizens living in such areas tend to be more reluctant to move from their hometowns and as such if they were to move they would require government subsidized living accommodations as they would not likely be in a position to purchase homes.

Thank God the federal government is making progress and approving infrastructure projects all throughout Newfoundland and Labrador. This is definitely a move in the right direction for our beautiful province. Also the loan guarantee in the amount of $2.5 billion for the Muskrat Falls Project is also a very positive thing from the Federal Government to the province. This will give N.L. the ability to secure low interest loans to carry out such projects until commodity prices increase for mining and oil.

In the mid-1960s, one of the greatest projects in the world was completed in Churchill Falls, 5,000 megawatts of power was made available. Joey Smallwood was the premier of Newfoundland and Labrador at that time and he attempted to get a power grid corridor through Quebec to transport power to Ontario and other potential customers in the Eastern USA.

He was denied the power grid through Quebec at that time and then approached Lester Pearson, Prime Minister of Canada at that time. Because Prime Minister Pearson was in a precarious situation at the time with his government, he than offered Smallwood funds to construct and pave the Trans-Canada Highway across Newfoundland and Labrador in exchange for not approving the power grid project through Quebec.

The Newfoundland and Labrador government was compelled to sign a lop-sided contract with the Quebec government at that time, giving Quebec billions of dollars while Newfoundland and Labrador settled for only millions of dollars.

Currently, Quebec has 21 more years in the contract, which will allow them to receive the financial benefits from Churchill Falls. Right now Newfoundland and Labrador is in an unprecedented financial state, our province needs money now. Perhaps we could sit down with Quebec and negotiate a new contract whereby N.L. would begin to receive 50 per cent of the benefits Quebec currently receives from Churchill Falls for the duration of the current agreement and, with this being said, perhaps it could be negotiated whereby Quebec would than reap 50 per cent of the benefits from the Lower Churchill Project with infrastructure money from the federal government, once it goes online and begins producing power.

This would help alleviate potential unemployment for workers currently employed at the Muskrat Falls project, which will be completed in the near future. With a new Lower Churchill project many of these individuals would be able to transition into new employment.

There are many rivers in Labrador that flow out through Quebec and could potentially produce more power in the future between the two provinces. These rivers could be developed in the future. Quebec and N.L. could produce power for eastern North America, at a time when electric vehicles are becoming more popular, thus cutting down on the carbon footprint in the environment which impacts climate change in our world. I can see in the future that N.L. will acquire wealth from the commodity prices of minerals and oil goes up.

I would like to discuss the issue of having a fixed-link constructed between Newfoundland and Labrador. With the ability for people to travel between both areas much easier this could unlock a great tourism industry would bring much needed financial growth to the province.

I foresee a new oil refinery in Stephenville at the site of the old pulp and paper mill, which has shipping infrastructure in place already.

The cost of living in Newfoundland and Labrador has increased approximately six per cent because all food has to be shipped from North Sydney, N.S. to Port aux Basques or Argentia. There should be no cost to truckers and people for using the services of Marine Atlantic as this is part of the Trans-Canada Highway grid, but rather we should have a toll system in place.

Newfoundland is known as the wind-swept isle and there is tremendous potential for wind power. One thousand units could be strategically place around Newfoundland producing 1.5 megawatts of power each, this would be equal to the Muskrat Falls project, eliminating the Holyrood power units, which burn bunker C fuel. Some of this power could be sold to Maritime provinces who burn coal to produce power, thus reducing carbon emissions.

Robert White, Deer Lake